Although debate continues on whether breakfast is the most important meal of the day, breakfast cereal sales keep growing year after year, with $15 billion in revenue expected in 2018.
Though cereal is certainly appealing for its quick and easy preparation, sorting through the multitudes of options at grocery aisles can be a tricky task if you’re looking for something healthy. It’s a good rule of thumb to steer clear of artificially colored cereals with cartoon characters on the box, but other seemingly nutritious brands tout misleading claims of wholesome ingredients and other health benefits, concealing some not-so-great qualities, such as excessive added sugar.
We chatted with two nutritionists to get some clarity on what makes for a healthy cereal, and asked them to rank the nation’s most popular varieties.
Here are America’s nine top-selling cereals, according to 2017 figures from Chicago-based data firm IRI:
Honey Nut Cheerios
Honey Bunches of Oats
Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Here’s what our nutritionists look for in a healthy cereal
“I like to recommend shopping for whole grain options,” Amy Gorin, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in New York, told HuffPost. “You can take a look at the ingredients list of the cereal to check that the first ingredient is a whole grain. That ingredient might be whole wheat, oats, cornmeal or another whole grain.”
Gorin added that ample fiber (at least 3 grams per serving), some protein (at least 5 grams per serving) and a conservative amount of sugar (no more than 4-6 grams per serving) is also ideal. “Protein and fiber help keep you fuller for longer, and we should try and limit our intake of added sugar,” she said.
Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and media rep for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, recommended checking out the total carbohydrates as well, ideally 45-60 grams per meal, to make sure you have enough energy to power through the morning.
Here’s what they try to avoid
When it comes to added sugar, less is better, and when possible opt for fruit to add sweetness rather than table sugar, Valdez said.
Unlike whole grains, refined grains like white flour and degerminated cornmeal have been stripped of most of their fiber, vitamins and minerals. They are more quickly digested and have a high glycemic index, which may lead to overeating.